How One Blogger Has $20,000 a Month In Sales on Her EBook

by Mack Collier

A few weeks ago on a Sunday I was scrambling for topic ideas for that night’s #Blogchat when @SarahMaeWrites suggested we cover How to Create and Sell an EBook that night.  That sounded interesting, and then she DMed me to add that she had just created and sold one, so I thought ‘Perfect!’ and asked her to co-host.

Now what I didn’t realize is that this pretty young lady had unleashed a social media marketing dynamo to promote and create interest in her ebook.  She had a clear strategy, and was leveraging social media and her existing online network to promote the book.  And her strategy was working incredibly well, so well that she has now sold over 8,000 copies of the ebook in less than two months.  At $4.99 a pop.  Do the math kids, she’s making $20K a month JUST off this ebook.

And the reason why is because she created a valuable product and did a fantasmic job of promoting it and building interest in it by not only leveraging her community, but involving them in the entire process.  When I heard Sarah’s story I just knew this would be such a wonderful case study to help show others what really smart social media marketing looks like, so I asked Sarah if I could interview her, and she was gracious enough to accept:

Mack: What made you decide to write an ebook?

Sarah:   A few things…

First of all, I read this: Indie Author is Making Millions by Selling the App Store Way (I have no idea how I came across this article, I wasn’t searching for ebook info or anything like it.) I found the article fascinating and tucked it away in my mind.

The second thing that influenced my decision to write an ebook has to do with my serious procrastination skills (and lack of the ability to write on cue). I had an article due for a site I write for monthly and I had nothin’. I finally decided to go through my archives and I landed on a post from a series I did two years ago on cleaning (which was more about the heart than on the actual mechanics of cleaning). I posted it.

The response was significant; women were relating with what I wrote. I knew the content was something that could help and encourage women, and I wanted to get it out there.

The best part was that I knew I had enough posts to go ahead with the ebook on my time table (I have very limited time being a SAHM to little ones). My cleaning series was 31 days long – I had 30 articles to work with. Timing was also perfect – it was March and spring cleaning was just about in full swing. I knew I needed to put my series into a book and release it in April (time is crucial!).

 

Mack: What goes into the actual creation of an ebook?  And once you create it, how do you distribute it?  Do you put it on your servers and let people download it?

Sarah: For me, it’s mainly the writing I focus on. I hire a designer to do everything else, from turning my document into a PDF (anyone can do this, but I always seem to mess it up!) to having her format it on Kindle and Nook. I use (and highly recommend) Erin from insightblogdesign.com. She is professional, efficient, affordable, has an eye for design, and is an easy personality.

As for distributing it as a PDF download, I heard good things about E-Junkie, so I went with them (this I do myself-they take you step-by-step through the process). So far, so good. They also have an affiliate set-up, the ability to create discounts, video branding, and more.

 

Mack: When did you start promoting, before or after the ebook was released?

Sarah: I started promoting pretty much the minute I decided to put my series into an ebook. I deleted the posts from my site, began to re-work and update them, and let my readers in on the ride. I used social media because it is my platform – I have an audience on it. I had built up my personal blog, started another blog, and was hosting a conference. I am in the social media sphere because that is where my community is (one I am so thankful for, especially as a SAHM).

 

Mack: How did you use social media to promote the book?

Sarah: Here’s what I did: I held two launch day giveaways on my own two blogs to get things started with a bang (I contacted companies and asked them if they wanted to participate). I then asked many bloggers to review and/or have a giveaway of the book (reviews on blogs are key-the more the better). I did pay a few blogs for advertising. I used Twitter and Facebook to create a community around the book – a hashtag for Twitter and a fan page on FB (both of which I regularly interact with). I created a youtube video where I talk about the book (over 10,000 views) and I started a website for everything related to the book (including freebies). I also used the power of free to get the word spread. For one day only I offered the book for free to anyone who spread the word via social media channels. It was a wonderful success. I gave away over 2000 books, but the reach was just what I was looking for – I wanted to break through my own sphere of influence and reach beyond, and the free day did just that. It even got my book mentioned on two different radio stations in different states. The goal? Be everywhere.

I also put the book on Amazon Kindle. You’ve got to have your book on Kindle (and Nook).

(Mack’s note – Pay attention to where Sarah said she gave away 2,000 copies of the book in one day.  That might seem like she was losing sales, but note how she said that by doing that it greatly EXPANDED the reach of the ebook and pushed it past her network.  Allowing her to get MORE sales!)

 

Mack: What has been the biggest surprise from doing this ebook?

Sarah: The biggest surprise was the amount of ebooks I sold. I honestly was hoping to sell about 50…maybe 100 if I was “lucky.” I had no idea I would sell over 8000 copies in less than two months. Shocking, actually, comes to mind.

 

Mack: Are you thinking about doing additional ebooks now that your first has been so successful?

SarahYes. Although now I’m in this interesting place of deciding if I want to continue with ebooks or go traditional publishing. If your ebook takes off, a publisher may want it. However, just last week Amazon announced that Kindle E-Book sales surpassed printed books for the first times. A sign of the times.

 

Isn’t that just the coolest story ever?  BTW here is another great post recapping Sarah’s process.  And of course, the ebook!  You can go here to learn more about it (and isn’t that site just amazing? ).  And please do check out her blog, Like a Warm Cup of Coffee.

Thanks Sarah!

UPDATE: Here’s some more information on some of the fees associated with selling the ebook, according to Sarah:

Addendum to the interview: I have been extremely blessed with the sales of my ebook, but please remember that I do factor in taxes and tithe, which takes 40% off my gross. On Amazon, I receive 70% royalties (for U.S. sales, 30% for abroad), and then take 40% off of that. Paypal charges about .44/book, and E-Junkie (where I distribute the PDF) charges $5/month.

And here’s the link to the post on Sarah’s site.

BTW some people seem to be a bit upset about the $20,000 figure being mentioned.  That was actually *my* idea, Sarah didn’t really even want to mention it, but I did because it would help get attention to the post because I wanted people to hear the strategy Sarah used as I think that’s the key.  Also, I changed the title as it technically wasn’t correct to say she was ‘making’ $20,000 a month, but again, that was my idea, not Sarah’s.

 

SarahMae May 23, 2011 at 12:03 pm

Thanks for sharing my story with everyone…I hope people are able to harness their own passions in order to help people and make some money. I am so happy that authors now have the means to get their content out to world and earn some money without a middle man. :)

MackCollier May 23, 2011 at 12:06 pm

@SarahMae thank you and that’s a big reason why I wanted to interview you. So many bloggers want to make money from their efforts, and think slapping ads on their blog is their best (only?) alternative. When it’s usually the worst. Your story proves that content creators can make money from their efforts if they are smart and look beyond just having ads on blogs.

And when are you writing an ebook on how to create a successful ebook? ;)

ChristinWrites May 23, 2011 at 12:18 pm

Woo hoo Sarah Mae!! So happy for you girl! :) That is just incredible!

CrystalECollins May 23, 2011 at 1:18 pm

Didn’t you give most of that away for free Sarah? And don’t forget about affiliate fees…

CrystalECollins May 23, 2011 at 1:23 pm

Yes I see where you said you gave away 2,000 copies.

ChristinWrites May 23, 2011 at 1:32 pm

I don’t think she has an affiliates program. @CrystalECollins

SarahMae May 23, 2011 at 1:39 pm

@CrystalECollins Hi Crystal, with the 2000 free ones, I’ve distributed over 11,000 ebooks, however, some were at a discount here and there (example: moneysavingmom.com gave 50% off for one day). Also, I have not been running an affiliate program. I did *just* open it up for a few blogs, but that was just in the last couple of weeks, and I believe only one has put the button up as of now. I haven’t decided if I’m going to open it up or not for more affiliates. :)

CrystalECollins May 23, 2011 at 1:40 pm

@ChristinWrites Yes she EJunkie and Amazon take out their fees.

AmysFinerThings May 23, 2011 at 1:41 pm

First of all, Sarah Mae — bravo! So excited for you, and thank you for sharing your highly successful strategy.

I’m afraid, though, that this article is incredibly misleading, and is leaving out a lot of important information. The presumption is that 8.000 books have been sold at full-price in the last two months, and no fees (Amazon has fees, right? I don’t know since I haven’t sold a book ;) have been taken out. That simply can’t be true.

I’ve seen the book promoted at various large discounts and have to guess that many many people took advantage of those offers.

Also, “$20,000 per month” insinuates that there is a record of success for many months. Again, misleading. (At this point, though I have no doubts of the books continued success.)

I just don’t want aspiring entrepreneurs to look at this article and take the numbers “as is” without all the correct information, and I don’t think Sarah Mae would want that, either.

CrystalECollins May 23, 2011 at 1:41 pm

@ChristinWrites Yes Ejunkie and Amazon take out their cut.

SarahMae May 23, 2011 at 1:42 pm

@CrystalECollins @ChristinWrites E-Junkie charges only $5/month – isn’t that amazing?! Love them. With Amazon U.S. sales I get 70% royalties (30% abroad). Now, I did forget to mention Paypal fees…they take about .44 a book sold.

SarahMae May 23, 2011 at 1:45 pm

@AmysFinerThings Hi Amy, I put an addendum on my site letting people know about the fees, taxes, and tithe. :)

Also, I have had three discounts, for one day each, since the book went on sale.

CrystalECollins May 23, 2011 at 1:45 pm

@AmysFinerThings You said exactly what was on my mind. And yes kudos to Sarah, but the article seems a little misleading and sensationalized.

ChristinWrites May 23, 2011 at 2:17 pm

Oh oh, I thought you were strictly speaking of her own affiliates program where she pays affiliates to promote and sell her book, like through e-junkie. My apologies. :) @CrystalECollins

MackCollier May 23, 2011 at 2:32 pm

@AmysFinerThings Amy top clarify, I created the post title, and I agree with you that it wasn’t completely accurate to say that Sarah makes $20,000 a month, so I changed it to $20K a month in sales. And to further clarify, Sarah didn’t really want to get into the amount of money that the ebook had generated at all, but I thought it was important to point that out because it shows that if you have a solid strategy guiding your efforts(and great content), that you can make a lot of money on ebooks.

Hope that helps, and thanks for keeping me in line ;)

ChristinWrites May 23, 2011 at 2:35 pm

@AmysFinerThings Hi Amy! I see your point, but at the same token, if anyone is an aspiring Entrepreneur, they know there are expenses with every business. :)

I think the only thing that takes the bang out of such success is Uncle Sam. I’ll take Amazon & e-junkie fees all day long, LOL.

AmysFinerThings May 23, 2011 at 2:46 pm

Actually, I disagree. It’s not just Uncle Sam and Amazon at stake here. The price of the book makes a giant difference. Selling something for $4.99 and selling the same thing for $2.50… well… again, I haven’t sold any ebooks, but I don’t know anyone who sells as many of any product at full price as they do at half price.

Please (please!) understand that I in no way want to undermine the ebook success. It’s incredible! I just don’t think the facts are straightforward. @ChristinWrites

SarahMae May 23, 2011 at 2:55 pm

@AmysFinerThings @ChristinWrites Hi Amy, I’ve sold the majority (by a long shot) of the book at regular price. HOWEVER, sales certainly help. :)

I think the key is pricing it affordable to begin with.

ChristinWrites May 23, 2011 at 3:15 pm

Actually, I believe that having the book priced to sell was a driving factor in sales. More people are likely to spend $5 than they are $10. In addition, when there are discounts, more people are inclined to buy. I think there was an advantage in the discounted and free books because Sarah Mae didn’t lost out on materials and it allowed for more people to recommend the book and pass on the title to others.This is totally my view and understanding of it.

The income is still business income. Every business has it’s expenses.

And truly, I am enjoying this conversation because I think it really helps us dig into the experience deeper. :) Thank you so much for your input and graciousness! :)

@SarahMae @AmysFinerThings

MackCollier May 23, 2011 at 3:16 pm

@AmysFinerThings @ChristinWrites Hey Amy, below @SarahMae clarifies that she has distributed 11,000 ebooks, including the 2,000 she gave away. I think that means she sold 9,000, correct? She also adds that the majority by a long shot were sold at full price.

So if 9K were sold, and 7K at full price, 2K at half price, that equals $40K in sales. I’ve never claimed to be the sharpest knife in the drawer, but I think the facts are square here. What am I missing?

ChristinWrites May 23, 2011 at 3:26 pm

I quickly just wanted to add that the price of the book doesn’t nullify the amount of sales she has generated. The $20,000 in sales doesn’t change simply because she sold the book at $5 or $2.50, or $1. Selling the book at all those prices is what generated the $20,000 in sales. :) @SarahMae @AmysFinerThings

CrystalECollins May 23, 2011 at 3:59 pm

@ChristinWrites @SarahMae @AmysFinerThings I’m sorry but the article calculated just sales at $4.99 to reach the $20,000 mark. I quote ” And her strategy was working incredibly well, so well that she has now sold over 8,000 copies of the ebook in less than two months. At $4.99 a pop. Do the math kids, she’s making $20K a month JUST off this ebook.”

So since we have established here in the comment section that many sold at half of $4.99, then the figures are wrong. Honestly I don’t care how much Sarah has made because she obviously has a successful product. The article here is in question, not Sarah herself, as I am sure she never even gave any figures to the interviewer.

ChristinWrites May 23, 2011 at 4:11 pm

LOL this is so funny. I’m sorry. Just have to laugh. :)

Ok, Sarah Mae clarified that 11,000 books were distributed. It was also conveyed that most of the distributions (by a long shot) were distributed at full price. So I don’t see how the 8,000 at $4.99 was a wrong figure. The free and discounted books were already removed from that figure. Unless I am missing something else, which I could be?? @CrystalECollins @SarahMae @AmysFinerThings

MackCollier May 23, 2011 at 4:17 pm

@CrystalECollins @ChristinWrites @SarahMae @AmysFinerThings Crystal I’m confused, where did we establish here in the comments that “many sold at half of $4.99″? Sarah clarifies above that ” I’ve sold the majority (by a long shot) of the book at regular price. HOWEVER, sales certainly help. :)” and then adds in another comment that she has distributed 11,000 ebooks, minus the 2,000 given away.

What am I missing here?

CrystalECollins May 23, 2011 at 4:19 pm

@MackCollier @ChristinWrites @SarahMae @AmysFinerThings I’m was under the impression that the 8,000 were total sales including those not sold at full price. If am mistaken I’m sorry.

MackCollier May 23, 2011 at 4:21 pm

@ChristinWrites @CrystalECollins @SarahMae @AmysFinerThings Thanks, I came to the same conclusion, 11,000 books distributed, minus 2,000 free copies, that leaves 9,000 ebooks sold. And Sarah further clarifies that she has sold the majority at full price.

So she seems to be right at $20K a month in sales, or even ahead of it. And if I remember correctly (Sarah correct here if needed), I believe Sarah won’t have sold this book for 2 months until the 11th or so of June? So she could easily hit $50K or even $60K in sales for the first two months!

Again, if my figures are off and someone can explain to me what I got wrong, I’ll be happy to edit. But so far Sarah seems to be ok with the figures, so I’ll tend to go with her ;)

MackCollier May 23, 2011 at 4:23 pm

@CrystalECollins @ChristinWrites @SarahMae @AmysFinerThings No problem, a lot of numbers flying around this place ;)

ChristinWrites May 23, 2011 at 4:25 pm

Oh no biggie Crystal. I just wanted to get to the bottom as much as anyone else :)

Mack, I think her sales would be even over that because we didn’t even factor in the sales of the discounted books sold. It is still revenue, regardless. :) I am very interested in writing an e-book so this is valuable information for me. :)@MackCollier @CrystalECollins @SarahMae @AmysFinerThings

andrea_r May 23, 2011 at 4:40 pm

We sell our ebooks the exact same way at wpebooks.com, using ejunkie and the Amazon Kindle stores. While our products aren’t broad enough to hit the $20K in a month, we’re working on it. ;)

SarahMae May 23, 2011 at 5:07 pm

Mack, you represented everything accurately. ;)

problogger May 23, 2011 at 5:24 pm

Congrats on the success of this SarahMae. I think it’s exciting too that bloggers can find these new(ish) income streams – it is a great time to be involved in the web!

SarahMae May 23, 2011 at 5:39 pm

@problogger Okay, insanely honored that you commented on this post. Thank you! :)

MackCollier May 23, 2011 at 6:03 pm

@SarahMae @problogger Agreed, thanks for chiming in, Darren!

MackCollier May 23, 2011 at 6:05 pm

@andrea_r Very interesting Andrea! It’s like there’s a whole new world that we are being exposed to around the creation and distribution of ebooks! Thanks for giving us your experiences!

ThinDifference May 23, 2011 at 6:24 pm

What a great interview! You gave us a lot of information… very helpful! I have begun to research ebooks, and it is great to read about your success and how you achieved it. Congratulations, and thanks for the interview and for sharing!

AmysFinerThings May 23, 2011 at 10:04 pm

“I think there was an advantage in the discounted and free books because Sarah Mae didn’t lost out on materials and it allowed for more people to recommend the book and pass on the title to others.” Yes! I so appreciate the discussion, too. Would love for this to be a “launching pad” of sorts to delve into ebook marketing ins and outs again someday. @ChristinWrites @SarahMae

Lori May 24, 2011 at 11:09 am

Hey Sarah, Hey Mack,

My niece melanieathomp sent this link to me because she knew I’d LOVE to read it and she was right! I am presently completing my first book and decided recently to publish it directly to Kindle because, as Sarah said so well, “just last week Amazon announced that Kindle E-Book sales surpassed printed books for the first times. A sign of the times.”

After exploring all my options, I realized NONE of them felt right. Like Sarah, I know I need to “get it out there!” and then the idea of publishing directly to Kindle popped into my head!

Thank you Sarah for sharing all this information, and thank you Mack for making this available to us. Just yesterday I started to wonder how I would market my book. I have a blog; Life,forinstance, and a growing, though young, community and I have a target date of September. And here is this article today giving me so much good information. Divinely placed!

All the best to you Sarah – now I’m going to go follow you! (You too Mack!)

Lori

MackCollier May 25, 2011 at 1:35 pm

@Lori melanieathomp Thank you Lori! This is why I wanted to interview @sarahmaewrites because this is such a great case study and there are so many bloggers that would love to create and distribute their own ebook, but aren’t sure how the process works or what’s involved. This interview was as big of a help to me as anyone else ;)

bald June 5, 2011 at 10:02 pm

Mack,
Thanks for posting this interesting and helpful interview. And Sarah Mae, congratulations on your success! I’ve read your blog for a couple of years now and know you are a good writer. Good job.

Warren
http://www.warrenbaldwin.blogspot.com

jeffgoins June 7, 2011 at 9:19 am

Incredible story. I’m inspired to write an ebook.

sundijo June 13, 2011 at 9:00 pm

Been wanting to write an ebook FOREVER. Totally inspired to do it.

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